Not finding out what your customers want kills your startup. It's the single most important thing our team needs to be focusing on. And it is your job as the CEO, to lead the way in discovering how you're going to find product-market fit. I've found that creating a product team that runs lean is the best way to do this.

A lean product team will run circles around a desire to be visionary. Unless you want to bet you have the ability to be a visionary like Steve Jobs, banking on an untested vision is just rolling the dice. Lets go to Vegas and put it all on red instead.

What a lean product team should do is find out how to discover the customer problem's problem with as little waste as possible. Think of it as a roadmap to the treasure chest. Below, I'll outline the best way to go about this. Run an entire process yourself, and you'll achieve average results if you're lucky. Teach others to run a process you created, and you'll build a company that can become an empire.

1. Force your team to outline the customer problem before creating a hypothesis

What do you get when you put together a bunch of smart people and tell them to build something? Nine times out ten, you get junk. Now get the same people together and give them a problem to solve, and you're more than halfway there.

Your job as a leader is to create a team of people who are all smarter than you, and then create an environment for them to succeed. To do this, you want them to first figure out what they need to solve. You can't solve a puzzle if you don't know which puzzle you're solving.

2. Build a process that forces a hypothesis before features

Before you let your team start throwing up a bunch of features, force them to first outline a hypothesis to solve a problem. Eric Ries would love me for saying this; it has lean startup written all over it.

You want to build this process in a way that allows you to be removed from the situation. Automation is your friend. The way to do this is to give your team a path to follow that gets narrower and narrower until you hit the destination. Many people believe these constraints ruin imagination. They are all wrong. True innovation is being creative under difficult constraints.

3. Have an obsession to eliminate waste

Waste is a major reason why startups implode. Wasted inventory, wasted time, wasted conversations, and wasted money. You need to be the one who is the executioner of waste.

To do this effectively, you need to work on your business, not in your business. Look from a birds-eye view and pin down what is causing your business to be successful. Analyze your products and try to but them down to the core. Study how your team is spending time and see if the allocation is aligned with the most important drivers of your business. We have a quote in our company that has served us well. "When in doubt cut it out." In an early-stage venture, can you really afford to think any other way?

Published on: Jul 26, 2015